Vancouver’s mayor expects there will be some congestion this afternoon as vehicle commuters “adjust” to the reconfigured Burrard Street Bridge.

The $1.5-million lane reallocation trial, which eliminates one of the three southbound traffic lanes in order to create two bicycle lanes, begins this morning.

The real crunch, however, should be this afternoon when up to 35,000 vehicles try to squeeze home in two lanes instead of three.

“Many are expecting chaos for the days ahead, but hopefully cooler heads will prevail and people adjust,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, who tried out the new bicycle lanes yesterday.

He told reporters that it was the first time in his life that he has felt safe crossing the bridge on his bike.
“There’s always some congestion coming out of downtown in the afternoons, but it’s spread over more hours than the morning commute,” Robertson said.

“Hopefully we have an adjustment over the next couple of days and people get used to the new way.”

The new lane arrangement was completed over the weekend and was open yesterday, although there was some confusion.

A number of pedestrians walked in the east bike lane, while some cyclists rode on the west pedestrian-only sidewalk.

The city estimates that 8,000 to 9,000 people cross the Burrard bridge every hour — half of those are people driving alone in cars.

For the trial to be successful, the city needs some drivers to adjust their commute and opt for the slightly longer route across the underutilized Granville Street Bridge.

A previous six-month trial in 1996 was scrapped after a single week due to public complaints.

Robertson said this trial would be monitored and fine-tuned, but would run its course.

“We need to give this more time, let people make the adjustments, make sure that we’ve dealt with the details that aren’t working as well — but we’ve got to give this some time to work.”